Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Wed July 27 2016

Highlights on Asheville NC’s Urban Trail

Destination & Tourism | Susan Young | July 27, 2016

Highlights on Asheville NC’s Urban Trail

PHOTO: Buskers in front of the flatiron. (photos by Susan Young)

While visiting the mountains of North Carolina this summer, give your hiking boots a rest and switch to walking shoes to traverse Asheville’s Urban Trail. This 1.7-mile, self-guided trek through downtown will lead you through 30 stops, jam-packed with landmarks, history and funky sculpture.

Along the way, you might stop in for a craft beer, or two, at one of the numerous breweries throughout the city. Or get your chocolate fix on at several chocolate shops and bakeries. There’s even a lounge for chocoholics. Beer and chocolate, something to please everyone.

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Back to the AUT, a downloadable map can be accessed on which will guide you through photo opportunities around every corner. We started at Pack Square, discovering bronze pigs and turkeys representing livestock, which were driven through town on this, previously dirt road. Some highlights of the walk include the following:

The Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. Bench is dedicated to the first woman awarded a medical degree in the United States. The bronze greenery represents medicinal plants native to North Carolina and the seats are formed to look like large gingko leaves.

The old S&W Cafeteria building is a perfect example of art deco architecture designed by Douglas Ellington, who brought his ideas from France where he lived during the 1920s building boom. Time this trek on a Friday night and you’ll run into the weekly Drum Circle, held in Pritchard Park, across the street.

PHOTO: The old S&W cafeteria building.

Around the corner, on Wall Street, stands the giant flat iron, where local buskers perform on any given night. The iron is an homage to one used by a local laundry and sits across from the Flat Iron Building on Battery Park Avenue.

The Basilica of St. Lawrence stands on a hilltop corner in all its glory. The architecture boasts statues of various saints and pious people, but you need to enter the structure to understand the meaning of “the largest freestanding elliptical dome, unsupported by wood or steel.” This edifice reminded me of the French cathedrals we toured in Europe.

PHOTO: Basilica of St. Lawrence dome.

Walk across the street and delight in various bronze sculptures of dancers and musicians, denoting the folk festivals occurring throughout the region. One, in particular, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, has taken place each August since 1927.

Not on the list, you’ll pass by the Asheville Pinball Museum, a treat to walk through, at no cost if you can keep yourself from playing one of these electronic masterpieces. For a flat fee, pinball wizards can play to their heart’s content.

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If you can’t visit all the stops, at least try to find the Thomas Wolfe neighborhood and his mother’s boardinghouse, made famous in “Look Homeward, Angel.” Thomas Wolfe’s father, W. O. Wolfe, used an angel statue, on the home’s porch, to advertise the family monument shop on Patton Avenue. A replica of the statue in also on the trail. Originally, this book was banned from the Asheville library for over seven years, due to the negative tone and bad slant it gave the city.

Even in the middle of summer, Asheville’s mild temps make this a pleasant stroll, up and down hills loaded with restaurants, breweries, shops and amazing architecture. I think Thomas Wolfe would be proud of what his hometown has become.

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